Can I get a credit card if I'm retired?

You may be able to get a credit card if you are retired, as long as the lender believes that you are able to make your monthly repayments and you fulfil all of their other lending criteria. Bear in mind, each lender uses their own criteria, and they will take your in individual circumstances into account. This means you could get accepted by one and turned down by another.

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Am I eligible for a credit card if I’m retired?

Being retired won’t necessarily stand in the way of you taking out a credit card. If you have a regular monthly income and a good credit history, you may be accepted, depending on the lender’s criteria.  

Should I get a credit card as a retiree?

This depends entirely on your financial situation. It’s understandable that you may need the extra money to pay for something important, but a credit card should never be used as a way of paying your bills each month. It is just a short-term option. You should make sure that you can always meet the full monthly repayments on time. Otherwise, you could spiral into debt and damage your credit score.

What are the benefits?

There are several benefits to getting a credit card as a retired person: 

  • a credit card gives you more flexibility. If you have something urgent to pay for, like a new boiler or roof repairs, a credit card will allow you to do this without having to save first. Just be certain that you can make at least the minimum monthly repayments each month
  • you may receive cashback or rewards with purchases on a credit card. This could benefit you financially if the rewards are something that you would use. Bear in mind that reward cards usually come with an annual fee and are reserved for those with the highest credit scores
  • using a credit card to make purchases often gives you more protection than a debit card would. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 states that credit card companies must protect purchases made between £100 and £30,000. The card provider and retailer you bought your purchase from are jointly responsible if the retailer goes bust, or the item is broken or has been falsely advertised. Note, you won't be covered by Section 75 on your credit card if you use an intermediary company like PayPal for example
  • if you plan to travel abroad, some credit card providers offer no foreign transaction fees. This is a fee you pay to use your card outside of the UK. This could work out cheaper than using a debit card or taking money out of an ATM while on holiday. You also might find it safer and easier not to carry wads of cash around with you. You will need to do research on which lenders offer no foreign transaction fees before applying, otherwise, you may end up being charged 

What should I avoid? 

Whilst there could be benefits to getting a credit card while retired, it’s important to know the risks: 

  • try to avoid paying a high Annual Percentage Rate (APR). This relates to the total cost of borrowing per year and is usually expressed as a percentage. Credit card lenders look at your income levels - and without a full-time job, you may have a lower fixed income. If this leads to higher interest rates, getting a credit card may work out to be expensive for you. So it’s best to shop around before you apply. Bear in mind, if you pay off your card in full and on time every month, you won’t be charged any interest
  • retirement can be daunting because leaving work may mean your income drops significantly. You should avoid using a credit card to top up your income because that may leave you with debts that you can’t afford to pay
  • making multiple credit card applications within a short space of time. This can put lenders off, as it can give them the impression that you are in financial difficulty. You can use an eligibility checker like QuickCheck to find out if you’re eligible before you apply, without affecting your credit history. This should reduce the number of applications you make - and the risk of rejection

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Intelligent Lending Ltd (credit broker). Capital One is the exclusive lender.

How to choose the right kind of card

When choosing a credit card, you’ll need to consider what the best kind of credit card is for a retired person, as well as your specific financial situation. 

Reward schemes

Many credit card providers offer reward schemes, such as cashback schemes, no fees abroad, or points schemes. These could make getting a credit card financially beneficial.

You can use trusted comparison websites or a broker to find the best reward schemes for your financial situation. Be aware though, that a reward scheme will normally come with an annual fee. So, it’s only going to worth the extra expense if you think you’ll benefit from the rewards and get some use out of them.

Interest rates

Most credit cards have an interest rate attached to them. However, lots of providers offer a 0% introductory rate, where you don’t pay any interest for a fixed period. As somebody who is retired and probably has a lower fixed income, you may it harder to get a 0% introductory rate than you did while in full-time employment. This is because you may come across as a higher risk to lenders.

Make sure you shop around to find a credit card with the best interest rate that you’re eligible for.

Fees

Some lenders charge fees for using your card abroad. Others may charge for balance transfer services, which is where you use one credit card to pay off the balance on another.

Make sure you read the small print before signing up for a credit card. It’s important that you know what fees you will be charged for which services in order to make the most informed decision.

What can I use my card for?

A credit card lets you spend money up to a certain credit limit (though it’s best to keep spending to 30% or less of your limit, for the benefit of your credit score). You borrow the money from the card provider and pay it back each month –by making at least the minimum repayment.

You can use it to make purchases in person or at online retailers, although some companies don’t accept credit cards. You can also use it to build up your credit score if you have a bad or thin credit history. However, it’s important that you can afford to pay at least the minimum amount each month, to avoid late fees and negative markers on your credit report. If you can afford to pay your balance off in full each month, then this is even better – as you won’t be charged any interest at all. Plus, it will show lenders that you are a responsible borrower.